MAAC Tournament Gameday: Niagara vs. Siena

MAAC Tournament First Round: 8-Siena vs. 9-Niagara,
5 p.m., Times Union Center, Albany


By Nick Veronica

Niagara opens the men’s portion of the MAAC Tournament today with a 5 p.m. play-in game against Siena, which is hosting the tournament at the Times Union Center. How convenient.

Niagara Purple Eagles: 7-13 MAAC, 8-21 overall, 4-9 road. RPI: 278. BPI: 311. Kenpom: 282. Streak: W4.

Siena Saints: 7-13 MAAC, 10-19 overall, 5-9 home. RPI: 269. BPI: 290. Kenpom: 285. Streak: L5.

So does Niagara have a chance or what? For most of the season, the answer to that question was a sad shrug followed by a “probably not.” Then Niagara got hot in mid-February and won four straight, giving it the longest active winning streak of any team in the conference.

Pair that with the fact that Siena has lost five in a row heading into Thursday’s game, and you have to think Niagara has a shot. What Siena has going for it is that it’s the host team, playing in its home arena in front of its home fans. But if Niagara plays strong defensively, limits offensive rebounds and has quality secondary scoring to supplement Emile Blackman, it could send Siena home early in front of its fans, which would be pretty sweet for the Purple Eagles.

The winner advances to play… Top-seeded Iona at noon Saturday. Fun. [Full bracket here]

Vegas says: Siena -3.5, at the time of this writing.

Players to watch: Siena’s Rob Poole was named Third Team All-MAAC for the second straight year while Niagara’s Dominique Reid was named to the All-Rookie Team. Blackman leads Niagara at 13.6 ppg while Poole’s 14.2 lead Siena. One player to keep and eye on is Siena forward Javion Ogunyemi, who had a big game against Niagara in Lewiston.

Series history: Season: Siena 2-0. All-time: Siena 47-46. All-time tournament: Siena 4-3. Tournament games held in Albany: Siena 4-1. Chris Casey vs. Siena: 0-4.

Random player tweets:

Also, Rob Poole’s face:

Bold prediction: Poole, who sat out Siena’s final regular season game with an ankle injury, hits at least four three-pointers to lead the Saints to victory.

Score guess: Siena 66, Niagara 64.

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Immediate reactions: Canisius 92, Siena 88 (3OT)

By Nick Veronica

How it happened: This game was something else. Canisius went to triple overtime for the first time since 2005 and pulled out a hard-fought victory, winning at Siena for just the fourth time since MAAC play began in 1989. Canisius had chances to win at the end of regulation, overtime and the second overtime but couldn’t convert. Billy Baron took the first two attempts and deferred to Chris Perez in double overtime because he was being double teamed.

Canisius took the lead for good late in the third overtime when Baron got a layup and a free throw to go up 89-88 with 45.5 seconds left. Rob Poole, who had a career day, couldn’t get a three-pointer to fall on the ensuing possession.

Baron set a career high with 40 points and added 10 rebounds. Perez scored 25 for the Griffs while Poole finished with 33 for Siena. Canisius improved to 18-9, 12-4 MAAC with four conference games remaining.

What it means: Billy Baron: very good. Chris Manhertz: sorely missed. Chris Perez: underreated threat. Canisius bench: not deep. Griffs: alive in the MAAC.

Big trouble: Chris Manhertz missed his third straight game with a broken nose, and his presence was missed once again. Phil Valenti and Jordan Heath picked up their fourth fouls within seconds of each other and had to sit with more than 13 minutes remaining in regulation. Josiah Heath fouled out in the third overtime, leaving Canisius with its only five available players on the court. Total rebounds were 40-32 Siena, but Canisius had much fewer early on, as low as 20 midway through the first overtime. The season low is 25.

Deep freeze: Canisius struggled from three-point range once again, making only 5 of 25 attempts (.200). The Griffs couldn’t hang with Iona last weekend because they went cold from deep in the second half, couldn’t find the touch Friday at Niagara, and continued the trend today.

Getting to the line: Canisius kept itself in the game by getting to the free-throw line. Canisius hit 33 of 41 attempts, both of which were season highs. Baron made 18 of 19.

Too much to blog: So much more happened in this game that I can’t even get to it all here. Read through my Twitter feed for more.

Next game: Canisius hosts Quinnipiac at 7 p.m. Thursday, opening the final homestand of the season.

Canisius at Siena gameday 2/16/14

By Nick Veronica

Canisius at Siena, 2 p.m., Times Union Center

The teams: Canisius: 17-9, 11-4 MAAC, 7-6 road. RPI: 105. Streak: won one.

Siena Saints: 11-15, 7-8 MAAC, 8-3 home. RPI: 237. Streak: lost one.

Last game: Canisius rallied behind Billy Baron and Chris Perez to beat rival Niagara, 71-65, Friday night.

Siena lost in the final seconds Friday night against Marist, 65-64. The Saints led by four with 12 seconds to go but gave up a layup and then had their inbounds pass stolen, which Marist turned into a game-winning three-pointer.

About Siena: Siena is only a few years removed from being the class of the conference, but two head coaches later, the Saints are just another MAAC team that’s trying to break in young players and will likely become chum in the conference tournament. Junior guard Rob Poole leads the team in scoring with 14.6 points per game and sophomore forward Brett Bisping is second with an even 10.0. Head coach Jimmy Patsos, formerly of Loyola, has no seniors on his roster.

Recent history: Canisius has won the last two meetings in the series, including a 93-87 win in December, but Siena owns 14 of the last 17. Canisius is 3-26 at Siena since MAAC play began in 1989.

Manhertz status: Chris Manhertz is not expected to play for Canisius after missing the last two games with a broken nose. I’ll update when I have an official word. UPDATE:

Scoring leaders: With his 34-point performance Friday night, Billy Baron’s average is back up to 24.0 points per game, good for fourth nationally.

MAAC standings (teams play 20 conference games; the top five seeds get byes in the tournament):

Iona 14-2
Canisius 11-4
Manhattan 11-4
Quinnipiac 11-4
Rider 9-7
Siena 7-8
Marist 7-8

Other MAAC games Sunday are Niagara at Manhattan, Marist at Monmouth and St. Peter’s at Quinnipiac.

How to follow the game: I’ll be following the game and tweeting, and this list should be active. The Siena media guide says the game will be on Time Warner, but that’s no help if you’re a Verizon subscriber.

Canisius vs. Siena pregame 12/8/13

I’m back at the KAC today for Canisius basketball against Siena in what will be Jim Baron’s 800th game as a head coach — he enters today 413-386 and 24-17 with the Griffs.

Last time out: Canisius (4-3) and Siena (3-7) are both 1-0 in the MAAC. Canisius beat Saint Peter’s 82-67 on Friday behind a career-high 28 points from Jordan Heath while Siena won at Niagara, 84-71.

About Siena: Guard Rob Poole leads the team in scoring at 14.9 points per game. You may also be familiar with guard Evan Hymes, who also averages more than 10 ppg. The Saints are led by coach Jimmy Patsos, who led Loyola to a MAAC title in 2012 but came over when Siena fired Mitch Buonaguro after last season.

Series history: Siena has won 14 of the last 16 meetings, but was also a league powerhouse during most of that time. The Saints split the season series last year, with the Griffs winning their most recent meeting, 76-44 at the KAC.

Noteworthy: Billy Baron was held to 9 points Friday night. It was just the fifth time in his Canisius career he scored fewer than 10 points, but oddly enough, Canisius is 4-1 in those games.

A live blog will be up about 10 minutes before tip. You can also follow along on Twitter @NickVeronica.